Thornbushes and Thistles?

June 16, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

angryBeware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (Matthew 7:15-21)

This past Sunday I was attracted to a beautiful plant that just blossomed this past week. It is under the dogwood tree just outside the entry into the Church. The flowers are a beautiful bright yellow and I don’t remember them from years prior. I even pointed them out to some parishioners as we spoke after the Divine Liturgy out front. All the other plants and trees have already blossomed and dropped their petals weeks ago around Pascha time and this plant in particular brought back memories of the Paschal celebration of Christ’s victory over death. The yellow flowers were inviting and beautiful. I am no connoisseur of plants so I cannot tell you the type of plant it is at the moment. I learned long ago that the colorful petals of the plant are to attract bees and such to help in pollinating other plants. People are compared to plants when Jesus speaks about those who are of God and those who are impostors.

Jesus says that no one goes to gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles. We can deduce that Jesus is saying that no one wants to go through the trouble and pain of being punctured by thorns and thistles to gather grapes and figs, but I don’t know of any thorn bush or thistle that grows grapes and figs anyhow. We would be at the wrong plant! If we were looking for grapes and figs we would go to the grapevine and fig tree.

The same applies in our Christian life. We should abide by the fruit of God and the fruit of God only grows on that plant which is planted in God’s garden. If we search anywhere else we partake of a different fruit, or no fruit at all. St. Paul taught that,  “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22) All these virtues above speak of another as their destination. The only other fruit St. Paul talks about is the fruit of the flesh, meaning that which satisfies our own desires.

If we choose to live for our own needs then we a re a plant that is not inviting and beautiful but rather thorny and isolated. A plant that does not have anything of real value to offer. The plant that is inviting and beatiful draws everyone nearby to partake and share in its glory and thereby also brings with it new plants and new life! It is nurtured by God and it shows in its radiance and brilliance. Our life and how we live it is the testimony of God for others to see and we invite others to partake in the fruit of God’s work.


Unity in Spirit

June 9, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

sheepMatthew 18:10-20 “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? “And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. ” Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. “But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

This is the gospel reading for the Monday following Pentecost Sunday. This Divine Liturgy is typically not well attended and many miss this special teaching from our Lord in a Liturgical setting. How are we to respond to each others shortcomings; our sinfulness? Jesus clearly outlines for us how we are to respond, a progression  of action, and the reasoning behind the protocol. If we don’t like another persons actions or are offended we are to go to them privately and tell them how we were affected by their actions. Imagine how much nonsense were could avoid if we just followed this first piece of advice. To have the boldness to go directly to the source of our hurt instead of speaking about them behind their back or just going around carrying a grudge. If that doesn’t work then we ask told to go again to that person with two or more people as witnesses. We are not to assume that the witnesses are just there on behalf of the one with the complaint. The witnesses could also be there to mediate between the two or clarify any misunderstandings by either party. If that fails then the matter is to be brought to the Church body.

The most important thing we can draw from this gospel reading is that our Lord wants us to put great effort into reconciliation. It can be so easy for us to write somebody off or to just remain mad. But Jesus calls  us the sheep of His fold, and He wants doesn’t want to lose any of us!  This topic always reminds me of the parable of the Prodigal Son when after the younger brother comes home after squandering his inheritance on loose living and given a feast in celebration for his return how the older son responds. The older son becomes upset with his father for giving so much attention to the return of his younger son when the older son was always faithful yet seemed to go unnoticed. The father’s reply speaks volumes of the generosity of God, “Everything I have is yours!” The older son is being invited to celebrate the reconciliation of his younger brother. When I hear this gospel I envision the feast for the son as the Kingdom of God. The older brother is standing before the entrance witnessing the glory of the eternal Kingdom but yet refusing to enter because he could not be reconciled with his brother. The older brother could have been the most righteous an faithful person to God but was unwilling to be reconciled with his brother and therefore denies himself communion with God because it also meant communion with his brother. The father pleaded with his son to enter into his joy. I try to picture myself before the banquet doors and I peer in at people who have cause pain or hurt in my life and I wonder if I am able to cross the threshold if invited. The Father’s joy is our reconciliation.

What’s in a Name?

June 4, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. (John 16:23)

gigTonight I am going to SOHO to see my cousin. He is touring with a band from overseas and I am really looking forward to meeting up with him because its been years since we’ve seen each other. Because I have this relationship with him I am on the VIP guest list and have special access. Very cool. I can go tonight and say, “Hey, I know Dean and I am on the list.”

In the 16th chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus is preparing the disciples for His Ascension to His Father. They will not be able to have this face to face contact they have been accustomed to. He assures them that if they ask their Heavenly Father, in Jesus’ name, they will receive. They know Jesus  personallyand have a special relationship with Him. Jesus called His disciples friends (John 15:15). Jesus tells them that they have the use of His name for their needs, and it grants them special privileges. St. Paul writes about the power of His name, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth…” (Phi. 2:10). And Jesus urges them to make use of His name so “that their joy may be full.”

Through our baptism we also have been granted this privilege. St. Paul preached in Galatians, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (3:27). Of course this doesn’t mean that we go around expecting our whims to be fulfilled like magic. Tonight at the show I am not getting gifts. I am not the center of attraction, but I get to be a part of it in ways others cannot. I also don’t want to be the guy who misuses the privilege and embarrass my cousin.

In the name of Jesus we are able to partake of something much larger. Life is the great ongoing gig and we can get to partake of it with special access.  We can feel honored even though we have done nothing to deserve the VIP status.  What we can do is be grateful and make the most of the blessing, everyday. And we look forward with hope for act II the great gig in the sky (reference thrown in for all of us Pink Floyd fans).

The Spirit Reveals

June 2, 2009

June 2, 2009

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. (John 16:13)

hsJesus prepares His disciples for His departure to the Father with these words. He must go so that He can send the Holy Spirit.   The end of the above verse where it says, “and He will tell you things to come” (NKJ), should not be taken as some sort of gift of knowing the future. The literal Greek translation is, “and He will tell you of the coming (things).” It is very clear what Jesus is saying. The Christ is spoken of throughout the Bible with the Messianic title “the coming (one)” as for example in Matthew when John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to go find Jesus and ask Him if He was the Coming One (Matt 11:3). And as the Messiah Jesus ushered in the Kingdom which is to come, and it is the Holy Spirit is  who reveals the “coming of the Kingdom.” The Holy Spirit is not only the revealer of the coming Kingdom but of all things of God, “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26)

At every Divine Liturgy we gather as members of God’s Kingdom and ask the Holy Spirit to make these things known to us. In St. Basil’s Anaphora (Offering) prayer we pray for the Holy Spirit to descend upon us and the gifts of bread and wine to reveal these things as the very body and blood of Christ. It is by the Holy Spirit that all things are revealed. Jesus Christ opened to us everlasting life by His Passion and glorious Pascha from death to life and it is the Holy Spirit that bestows this life upon us.

But the real question is how do wee see this concretely working out in our lives? What actually happened last Sunday at Church? Am I any different because of it?

I remember when I first started exercising with weights. I bought some dumbbells and started a makeshift gym in the basement. I read magazines and articles on form and routine. I wanted to start right and make it a life long commitment hopefully without injury. If you jump in too fast and lift too heavy a weight the body is not prepared; ligaments are not capable of supporting the weight and the neural system is not accustomed to the movements. Quickly you find out it is not just muscles at work but a very complex system working together that adapts over time.  Beginners see progress for a short time then quickly plateau and run the risk of overtraining or injury. Most people do not properly exercise even though they are “lifting weights.”  It is always best to train with a partner. They immediately can see imbalances or improper form and bring it to the attention of the person lifting. A good friend of mine who has been lifting for years recently confessed to me that he is amazed how he learned his right side of his body reacts to exercise much differently than his left side. When I recently lifted my partner was their to tell me that my shoulders were not in balance and therefore I was not carrying the weight evenly in the squat. I would not have known any different unless my partner was there to note these minute details in the exercise. When I was performing them by myself everything felt fine and well executed. They may be minute imbalances but they are very important in the execution of the exercise and the prevention of injury. It takes time and commitment to fix and relearn bad habits in lifting weights. I think weightlifting with a partner is a metaphor for attending Liturgy in the Spirit.

As a Christian we should approach the Divine Liturgy with care and understanding. It is to be a life-long commitment with proper understanding. Weightlifting begins before one enters the gym by knowing what the routine will be for the day, proper nourishment, and mentally running through the program in one’s mind. So also with Liturgy, one should pray, fast, meditate on the things of God. Just like my gym partner who reveals to me bad form, imbalances, and the things that are proper; at the Liturgy the Holy Spirit reveals to us Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment (John 16:8). It is when we woship in Spirit that not only our lives are revealed to us, but the joy of the things of God are made known to us.

The Anatomy of a Grapevine

June 1, 2009

Monday, June 1st, 2009

I am the true Vine, my Father is the Vinedresser (John 15:1)

vineAny quick research into growing grapes reveals the amount of work involved into producing an abundant harvest. Grapes are a high maintenance plant that require much attention to keep away disease and bugs, but the most important part of producing grapes is pruning. Vines are allowed to grow from one strong shoot directly from the roots. Any other shoots that grow from the roots are clipped back. Off shoots from the main vine are tied to the trellis and those are the vines that will produce grapes on the arms. New canes or shoots can only be produced on one year old canes thus new canes must be produced each year. As well as producing fruit for this season the shoot develops buds for next season’s growth. The farmer must prune the shoots beginning in the dormant season (winter) that show signs of not producing fruit during the growing season.

Our Lord uses the cultivation of grapes to describe our relationship to him. There is only one strong vine attached to the roots that is Christ. There can be no other source of nourishment to grow vintage grapes.  The shoots that spring forth from the vine are us and the trellis that the shoots are tied to for support is the Church.

Relationship with God is not a solitary act. Recent statistics show that many people, especially young men and women are looking for a new model to relate to God. One young man recently blogged, “I no longer go to Church, although I still believe in God. I pray at home.” Isn’t this enough? I get the feeling that many Christian’s in America have lost (or never had) the understanding of an Eucharistic Life. Being a Christian is much more than admitting that there is a higher Power. It is more than prayer, or acts of mercy, or even forgiving others.

Is it acceptable to get up on Sunday morning and choose to give blood or take the family to see a wholesome (perhaps even Christian) movie rather than going to Church? Aren’t they interchangeable? They are both “good things” right?If we strive to live a moral life and to do good to others aren’t we living as a Christians? Is that what God wants from us? In examining the teaching of the grapevine we get a true perspective. Our Lord teaches us, “Abide in me. And I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (verse 4). Giving blood, or donating to good causes, and praying at home does not replace partaking in the life of Christ. Everything else is secondary. To abide in Christ is to be connected in Him, to be in communion with Him. We cannot bear fruit unless we are of the vine. We cannot bear fruit apart from it. The fruit is actually produced and nourished by the vine. Our abiding in Christ produces not only fruit but a healthy shoot for another harvest. We are to keep the Lord’s day sanctified because it is the day we were given a new life by the Cross. We are to go to Church on Sunday and partake of Him by the grace of the Holy Spirit because it is life-giving. We are to gather as God’s community on Sunday in the Eucharist because we cannot abide alone. For apart from Him we can do nothing.

Why Do You Stand Gazing Up into Heaven?

May 27, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

jumpWe read from the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles for the Feast of Our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven. I always thought it funny how when Jesus was ascending to His Father before His disciples how two angels appeared and asked them why they are gawking upward.  I always imagine the disciple’s jaws dropped and necks craning and thinking they probably would have remained that way indefinitely unless the angels intervened. Jesus prepared His disciples for three years for this moment and they should not have been surprised. But now their Master and Teacher has bodily left them and they were to go to Jerusalem and await the descent of the Holy Spirit. The Lord was passing on the ministry of His Church to His disciples. It must have been a terrifying and anxious time for them.

I am sure there are many of us who remember getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time. We’ve had plenty of time watching others drive, but when it came time for us to take the wheel many of us just stared at the dashboard in front of us in disbelief. We took the hold of the wheel and gave it a squeeze; maybe gave a little turn to the left or right. Gave the key a turn and put it in gear. The instructor (or parent or whomever) gave the command, “Okay, let’s get going.” Probably for the disciples it was more like jumping out of a plane. Going at it for the first time without being in tandem or without their instructor, but instead they would hear, “Why do you stand there looking down? You’ve been prepared for this. This is your time. Jump!”

But once in gear or racing toward the earth at breakneck speed the experience is in the moment. I remember driving my junky car around feeling free and adventurous; the wind blowing through my hair (no, it wasn’t a convertible). I am sure the feeling is much more extreme with skydiving or else people wouldn’t still be paying to do it. The apostles had to wait another ten days but I am sure the day of Pentecost was a very similar experience for the disciples. Instead of a car or a plane they were soaring full of the Holy Spirit. With boldness and full of joy they went forward proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

I wonder why we don’t experience this every time we gather and partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. When we celebrate the Divine Liturgy we ask the Holy Spirit to descend on us just as He did on Pentecost to manifest us as the community of God! Why don’t we feel that same freedom, adventure, boldness and joy? After ascending the heights do we hear the angels crying to us, “Why are you just standing there, JUMP!”

Not Abiding Alone

May 25, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” (John 12:24)

seedsJesus said these words to Andrew and Philip when they came to Him saying that Greeks at the feast wanted to meet Him. Our Lord’s time had come for His Passion. The fruit of His labor was at hand. Jesus had no time for any more meetings. Jesus speaks of His glorification as a grain of wheat being planted and unless it “descends into the earth and dies it remains alone.” I never really caught the “alone” part of the verse before. I checked the Greek word used in the New Testament and it is monos. We use it in the English language as a prefix for words like monogram, monopoly, and monologue meaning to exist to itself, or excluding another. Jesus is not just talking about His death and resurrection as something He does on our behalf but a reality we become part of. The seed dies and produces fruit that causes shoots to sprout forth upwards from the earth. The top of the wheat grass produces a multitude of new seeds that the farmer uses to multiply his crops. Jesus could have stayed around and shared the Gospel message to the possible new Greek supporters of His ministry but He had more important work to do; to enter into human life in every conceivable way, even into death so that He no longer existed as life outside of His creation. He entered into it at His Incarnation and sanctified it with His presence; but gives true life abundantly by giving His life to it and simultaneously destroying the power of death. It is not just something imparted; it is something ontological that has to do with our very being. God is sharing His life us. No, He is offering His life for us even now. Eternally, once and for all.  We are the seeds on the top of the sprout of Christ’s death and resurrection. We no longer live apart from Christ;  His saving work has produced a community of “Christians” who partake of the well-springs of Life in Him.

Herein lies the basic definition of a Christian community. To go from the top of the wheat grass as a seed and to descend. We are to allow Christ’s life to germinate and sprout within us. This can only happen by existing apart from ourselves; not mono-lithically. A Christian community is about living for the other and “hating” our own lives. This word “hate” in the New Testament is misunderstood in today’s jargon. It does not mean to detest or despise ourselves. The best understanding is to “love less.” We must descend so others may be lifted up. Allowing the very life of Christ in us showing forth by how we relate to others. Christ didn’t convert the Greeks in the gospel of John with fancy words or impressing them with His power. He drew them to Himself by being lifted up on the Cross (vs. 32).

This is a hard message for us Americans who grow taught to expect “things” because we “deserve” them. Bumper stickers with the creed, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Accumulation of wealth and prestige become something we strive for without even putting much thought into where it is leading us. I think the current global economic crisis gives us a partial glimpse. How many times a day we are acting out of our own best interest; looking out for our own self-preservation. This way of life, Christ says, leads to a loss of our own life. Quite like a seed that sits on a shelf. By being preserved it is denied its true potential and reason for existing in the first place. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

God’s Glory Manifested

May 24, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

blameJesus answered, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:3)

This Sunday’s Gospel reading was about the healing of the man blind from birth. The Pharisees were obsessed with this healing to the point where the man who had just regained his sight comically asks the Jews if they also want to become Jesus’ disciples, which by the way enrages them. But the verse that always struck me was Jesus’ answer to His disciples’ questions regarding the condition of the man’s health. The disciples wanted to know if it was the man’s sins or his parent’s that caused his blindness. It sounds bit harsh to speak of a child yet to be born responsible for his life long condition of lack of sight. Of course we can see it as a metaphor for “spiritual sight” but we must agree that all sickness derives from sin. But again it is the answer that Jesus gives to His disciples that is intriguing, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (vs. 3) Is Jesus saying that this poor man was blind from birth just so God can show His power over it? Seems kind of harsh, doesn’t it? I don’t think that is what our Lord is saying. Neither is He negating the fact that human sin is the cause of all blindness, whether physical or spiritual (doesn’t need to be culpable sin).

Maybe a better way to look at it is to see Jesus redirecting his disciples (and the reader) from the consequences of sin to the Glory of God. Jesus is taking them (and us) from the level being fixated on the consequences of sin and raising them (and us) to a knowledge of God’s creative and restoring power. This verse is immediately followed with Jesus proclaiming,” We must work the works of Him who sent me, while it is day…as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Jesus is saying there are two ways of looking at hardship. The first would be to place blame, stay on the level of sin, debate it perhaps. The other is to have God manifest His glory in overcoming sin by His grace. To have God perfected in our weaknesses; to have the Father’s work shine through us.

Too many times we want to stay on the first level. We are comfortable there. We really don’t believe things can or will change. Even Scripture cries out to us, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” Yes, we are fools to think that we will live in a world without “thorns and thistles” in our garden, but this is not what Jesus unveils to us. He reveals to us the freedom from it while being in the midst of it.

Wouldn’t community life be much more fulfilling if we had this mindset. Instead of staying on the level of placing blame, and debating the issue, making charts, and replaying the crime over and over again in our mind when there is a trespass; imagine, rather,  saying, “It is not sin, but that God may be glorified!”

As we have been singing since Pascha, “let us embrace each other. Let us call brother’s even those that hate us! Let us be illumined by the Feast!” The world will not change, it is us who must change our hearts and minds in the light of Christ cross. Jesus spoke to His disciples before His passion,  “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Opening Doors

May 20, 2009

doorThursday, May 21st, 2009

Acts 14:20-27 (Epistle)

20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” 23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. 27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

The Work of the Disciples

This reading picks up after St. Paul had just healed a man from Lystra who was crippled from birth. The people misconstrue the disciples as gods who have appeared before them in the form of men and try to offer them sacrifices. The reaction of the people caused much dismay and frustration for the disciples (they ripped their clothes as a sign of grief and unbelief). The disciples earnestly tried to explain how it was Jesus Christ who was working through them. This must have caught the attention of the Jews who were visiting from Antioch and Iconium because they convinced the people to stone St. Paul. He was dumped outside the city gates presumed dead. Yet, when the other disciples “gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city.”

We must ask ourselves, “What was Paul thinking?” Why would he enter back into the city after barely escaping with his life. The next morning he went on with Barnabus to Derbe. It is there that after they preached the gospel that “they had made many disciples.” Great; but then we read on  that immediately after they “returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.” Huh? Lystra is the town where St. Paul healed the cripple and ended up getting almost stoned to death by the persuasion of the Jews visiting from Iconium and Antioch!

So many of us fear the possibility of conflict. Just the thought of it may cause a queasy stomach. Yet St. Paul is not afraid to meet it head-on with his fellow disciples. But not before St. Paul strengthened the souls of the disciples and professed that “through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.” St. Paul understood clearly that the preaching of the Gospel and the everyday trials of life that come from the kerygma (preaching/proclamation) cannot be separated from the message it proclaims. Rather it should be embraced! For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that He may endure us, endure the cross, opening to us the gates of Paradise.  The disciples went on establishing the faith. They travelled through Pisidia, Pamphylia, Perga, Attalia, and finally reaching Antioch. They reported to all of the Church how God blessed their work and “opened the door of faith” to the Gentiles. St. Paul and the disciples opened doors of faith to others not just by words, but by enduring others; being for them the very image of Christ. They were willing to endure the demands and abuse of others for the Gospel’s sake. For it is the Gospel. It opens doors.

But What Does This Have to do with Community

This Blog is supposed to be about dealing with one another in a community. Whether it be a community of people in recovery, a community of believers like a Church, or even a small family. The Christian dynamics should not change. So what does today’s reading have to do with relating to others as a communty? I would say that where two or three are gathered in the name of God, we have a community. True community is the work of God with Him in the midst of it. Our Lord sent His disciples out “two by two before His face into every city.” St. Paul arose and did God’s work surrounded by the diciples. St. Paul departed to Derbe not alone but with Barnabus; a community of two. We also must do God’s work as a community. There is no other way about it. I hear people say they can know God by being alone with nature, like fishing; or by meditating at home alone. They say they don’t need “church” or “organized religion.” They look at the fallen nature of their fellow humans and see them as an obstacle to knowing God, of actually perverting the knowledge of God. Maybe they are partly afraid of conflict. Afraid of accepting the fact that we are all on equal ground in the eyes of God. Accepting the fact that we do not hold the secret combination to open the Gates of the Kingdom.

God himself is One but He is also a community of Three – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One in essence and being, yet individual in person and activity, working in perfect harmony. If the very Godhead itself is a harmony of persons, perhaps we can come to the knowledge of God through cultivating harmony with others. By enduring their shortcomings and torment we more importantly may open to them the door of faith.

  • Conflict should not be feared but seen as an opportunity to be an example of Christian charity, compassion, patience, and love.
  • Conflict is not resolved by determining who is right and who is wrong but through compassion.
  • Remember God is always bigger than our problems.
  • “So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God” (Matt. 5:23).